Two years ago, first-year student Edmund Alyn Jones made his spectacular Hilberry Theatre debut as the villainous Richard III in the eponymous Shakespeare tragedy. Many roles later, and now as a third-year student, Jones has the title role in “Othello.” If he’s not careful, this Detroit native is going to be stereotyped as a brilliant actor.
Before joining the Hilberry Company as part of WSU’s graduate program, Jones earned his BFA from the University of Michigan and before that was part of the acclaimed Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. He has also been involved in many other Detroit venues, such as the City Theatre, Music Hall and the Gem Theatre.
Jones has the voice for Shakespeare, and brings intelligence and taut body language to his interpretation of this flawed hero. “For Othello,” says Jones, “nothing came easy for him. So in that sense, I definitely see a connection between him and Detroit.”
“Othello,” of course, is Shakespeare’s classic tragedy in which the great General, a Moor, is brought down by his lieutenant, Iago. The play deals with all of the big themes that remain relevant today – war, racism, mendacity, jealousy and misplaced trust. We can readily blame Othello for too easily believing Iago’s lies about the faithful Desdemona, but history and current headlines show us that the greatest military leaders can be undone by poor choices in their personal lives.
This production of “Othello,” directed by Dr. Blair Anderson, places the action on a stylized, modular set (designed by Leazah Behrens) with cubes that are cleverly reassembled by the cast to create conference tables, pubs, bedrooms, etc. The costumes are a curious mix of business suits and modern military uniforms (designed by Clare Hungate-Hawk) which gives the very first scene and uncanny “Glengarry Glen Ross” feel that suits the sinister nature of “Othello.” The production crew also features Veronica Zahn (Stage Manager), Brian M. Scruggs (Lighting Designer), Heather DeFauw (Sound Designer), and Curtis Green (Technical Director).
Happily, “Othello” is currently performed in rotating repertory with the hilarious Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann Marie-MacDonald, a modern comedy that seeks a happy ending for both “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Patrons interested in seeing both shows (which we highly recommend) can save $10 off the regular price when mentioning the coupon code 30R8.
The Hilberry cast is in top form, and many of the actors appear in both shows, which adds to the fun. For example, Miles Boucher, who plays honest Cassio in “Othello,” performs as his enemy, Iago, in “Desdemona.” Fans of Ferndale’s Ringwald Theatre will be delighted to discover veteran actor Joe Plambeck among the Hilberry Company in both shows – and it’s interesting to watch him jump from foppish physical comedy in “Desdemona” to high drama as the heartbroken father, (Brabantio) in “Othello.”
The cast also includes: Megan Dobbertin (Desdemona), Alec Barbour (Iago), Danielle Cochrane (Emilia), David Sterritt (Roderigo), Sarah Hawkins Moan (Bianca), Topher Payne (Duke), Ty Mitchell (Lodovico), Brent Griffith (Gratiano), Brandon Grantz (Montano), Joshua Miller (Senator/Barkeep), Joshua Blake Rippy (Officer/Herald), Chris Call (Gentleman), Carl Ghigliazza (Attendant), and Adham Aljahmi (Attendant).
“Othello” runs through January 17, but dates and times vary, so be sure to check the website for details. Tickets for “Othello” range from $12-$30 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, online or by visiting the Wayne State University Theatres’ Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.